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It is important to practice safe handling guidelines from the minute you purchase food until it is consumed,

For information about each of the following specific situations, please click on the link:

For information about avoiding infection, in general, click here.

Guidelines For Safe Home Storage Of Food

Keep your refrigerator/freezer cold and clean.

  • Use an appliance thermometer to verify the temperatures of your refrigerator and freezer. Recommended temperatures are:
    • The refrigerator should be between 32 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
    • The freezer should be 0 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.
  • Regularly clean and disinfect your refrigerator and freezer. For example, once a week, wipe the refrigerator with a solution of 1 part household bleach to 10 parts water.

Immediately as soon as you get home, refrigerate or freeze perishable items.

  • The coolness helps slow the growth of harmful bugs.
  • Refrigerate or freeze when appropriate, food items such as meat, poultry, eggs, seafood and other perishable items.

Store foods appropriately. Store raw meats, seafood and poultry in plastic bags you can close, covered plates, or food storage containers with closable lids. This will prevent any juices from dripping onto other foods in your refrigerator.

  • Store eggs in the body of the refrigerator, not in the door.
  • Store canned goods in a cool, clean dry place that avoids extreme heat or cold.
  • Keep foods away from cleaning supplies.
  • Do not store any foods directly under a sink.
  • Arrange food so that cool can circulate around it.

Watch dates. 

  • Do not eat food beyond the "use by" date on the package if there is one or if the food seems to be "off.".
  • Don't rely on the sniff test. Food that does not smell bad, could still be harmful. The USDA publishes guidelines about how long you can safely store a long list of foods. See: offsite link or Tel.: 888.674.6854
  • Wash your hands immediately after touching food that may be spoiled.

Throw out:

  • Eggs with cracked shells
  • Food or containers with any mold present
  • Freezer-bu rned foods

Wash reusable grocery bags in hot water.  Grocery bags can be a breeding ground for potentially harmful bacteria. Harmful bacteria can either be transferred to food directly, or indirectly by transfer onto your hands or kitchen counter tops.  


  • Keep food storage areas clean.
  • Throw out any cans that have signs of spoilage, including bulges, leaks, cracks or deep dents in the seam area.
  • Use home-canned foods within one year of canning.

Guidelines For Safe Food Preparation

Wash your hands.

  • Always, always, wash your hands (gloved or not) with soap and water before preparing food and after handling raw meat, poultry, seafood or eggs. 
  • It is particularly important to wash your hands after:
    • Touching pets or other animals.
    • Using the bathroom.
    • Changing diapers.
    • Blowing your nose.
  • Be sure to wash under your nails and up to our wrists.

Keep shelves, counter tops, refrigerators, utensils, sponges, towels, cutting boards and other equipment clean and sanitized.

  • Clean the sink with products meant for kitchen surfaces that are fortified with bleach which kills bacteria. An inexpensive way to do this is to use one teaspoon of liquid bleach per quart of water. Be sure to allow the solution time to work.
  • Consider using a cloth dish towel in place of a kitchen sponge which can act as a magnet for bacteria. Ideally, maintain sanitation by washing your dish towel in hot water in a washing machine after each use.
  • If you use a sponge, it should be washed in the dishwaher or washing machine at least every few days.
  • For kitchen surfacess, use a commercial cleanser or a solution of one teaspoon of bleach in a quart of water.

Use different cutting boards for raw meat and poultry.

  • Do not use a wooden cutting board for preparing any type of raw meat unless it is used exclusively for raw meat and/or poultry. A plastic cutting board may be easier to wash and sanitize.
  • All cutting boards need to be washed with hot, soapy water after each use, then rinsed and air dried or patted dry with fresh paper towels.
  • Cutting boards can also be sanitized with a solution of one teaspoon liquid chlorine bleach per quart of water. Flood the surface with the solution and allow it to stand for several minutes. Then rinse and air dry or pat dry with fresh paper towels.
  • After preparing raw food, mop up spills with paper towels, clean kitchen surfaces with hot soapy water, and wash your hands.

Don't rinse raw meat, poultry and fish in the sink.  It srisks spreading noxious organisms on surfaces that will later come into contact with foods eaten raw.  

Produce can and should be washed even if you plan to peel or cook it unless it comes in a package labeled triple-rinsed or ready to use. Rinsing again risks cross-contaimination.

Don't let juices come in contact with other foods.

  • Do not let juices from raw meat, poultry or seafood come in contact with cooked foods or foods that will be eaten raw, such as fruits or salad ingredients.
  • Use different dishes and utensils for raw food than you use for cooked food to prevent cross contamination.

Don't thaw or marinate foods on the counter.

  • Never thaw food on the counter.
    • Food should be thawed in the refrigerator.
    • It is also safe to thaw food in cold water in an airtight plastic wrapper or bag. Change the water every 30 minutes until thawed.
    • Food can also be thawed in a microwave which has a "thaw" setting, but should be cooked immediately after thawing.
  • Never marinate foods on the counter. Food should always be marinated in the refrigerator.

Thoroughly wash fresh fruits and vegetables before eating them.

  • It is particularly important to wash melons, espeically cantaloupe and others with rough skins, before cutting into them in case you transfer nasty organisms from the surface of the fruit to the flesh inside.  

If you marinate food, according to Jane E. Brody of the NY Times:

  • Keep the food refrigerated while it is marinating, even if the marinade is acidic.
  • Never use the same marinade on the food after it has been cooked unless you first boil it for ten minutes.
  • Do not reuse marinade to marinate something else.

One way to remove pesticides, bacteria and wax from produce with a skin (such as apples and carrots):

  • Spray with a solution made up of three parts water (from the tap) and one part distilled white vinegar.
  • Then rinse under cold running water. 
  • Remove dirt with a scrub brush or by rubbing with your hands.
  • Experts suggest that you do not use soap or bleach on foods.

Sterilize kitchen sponges.

Kitchen sponges can end up with an incredible amount of bacteria such as E. Coli and salmonella. To sterilize a kitchen sponge, saturate it with water and microwave it for two minutes. According to a recent study, it will kill 99% of the bacteria.

Don't place objects such a pocket book on the kitchen counter. They are likely to have bacteria on them which would be transferred to the counter top.

Guidelines for Cooking Foods Properly

Properly cooked food is essential to avoiding food borne illness. Heat kills bacteria, so make sure that your food is cooked thoroughly.

Use a meat thermometer. 

  • Get in the habit of using a meat thermometer to determine if your foods have been properly cooked. Most cookbooks provide appropriate temperatures and guidelines for cooking. 
  • A thermometer is an easy way to make sure that meats, poultry, casseroles, etc, have reached the appropriate temperature for destroying any harmful bacteria that may be present.

Avoid interrupted cooking.

  • Cook meat and poultry products thoroughly the first time. Then they may be refrigerated and safely reheated later.

Follow instructions when microwaving foods.

  • Carefully follow the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Use microwave-safe containers.
  • Cover, rotate, and allow for the recommended standing time which contributes to thorough cooking.

Cook eggs until they are firm and not runny.

  • Do not eat raw eggs or products containing raw eggs such as uncooked batter. They could have salmonella.
  • After coming into contact with raw eggs, wash your hands for at lesat 20 secinds in warm, soapy water.

Cook poultry, fish and meat until no longer rare.

  • Cook poultry until it has an internal temperature of 180 degrees Fahrenheit. The juices should run clear and the poultry should be white in the middle. Do not eat rare poultry.
  • Cook fish until it is opaque or white and flaky.
  • Cook ground meat to a temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Meat will be brown inside when thoroughly cooked.

Wash your hands with soap and water before serving and eating food.

Guidelines for Handling Leftover Food Safely

Keep hot foods hot (above 140 degrees Fahrenheit), and cold foods cold (below 40 degrees Fahrenheit).

Don't leave perishable foods out too long.

  • Do not leave perishable foods out for more than two hours, or for more than 1 hour if the air temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. This is especially important for picnics, barbecues, buffets, etc.

Leftovers are food too.

  • Leftovers should be divided into small units and stored in shallow containers for quick cooling. Leftovers may also be stored wrapped tightly in bags. Leftovers should be refrigerated within two hours of cooking.
  • When reheating leftovers, heat thoroughly to a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Bring soups, sauces, and gravies to a rolling boil.
  • Use leftovers within 3 to 4 days.
  • Discard anything left out too long.

Never taste or smell food to determine if it is safe.

  • If harmful bacteria is present, using the smell test can fill your airways and lungs with the bacteria.

If in doubt, throw it out.

  • For anyone with a serious illness there is too much risk associated with unsafe food.

Resource For Additional Food Safety Information

See the website: offsite link

You can also contact the USDA 24/7 with specific questions through their web site: offsite link, or you can call 800.535.4555.

An extensive selection of food safety recordings can be heard 24 hours a day by phone..